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The fernbirds are everywhere! In April 2019, FOMI transferred 40 mātātā /North Island fernbirds from Rotokare Scenic Reserve in South Taranaki to Mana Island.  Our translocation report noted that: “This was an extremely successful translocation. Post-release monitoring before and after the 2019/2020 breeding season will indicate whether short term success (territory establishment and breeding) has been achieved on Mana Island.” David Cornick, Geoff de Lisle and Dallas Bishop have taken every opportunity to monitor the numbers and distribution of these birds – aided by DOC staff on the island. Sightings have been recorded on the large map in the Lockwood house.  The monitoring has indicated very good survival of released (banded) birds, and clear and extensive establishment of territories in a range of habitats around Mana Island. The increase in sightings of unbanded birds from January 2020 indicated very successful breeding. Increasing numbers of sightings of unbanded birds have been reported anecdotally right through until March 2021.  A comment noted recently overheard on returning from Mana – “There are fernbirds everywhere.” April 2021 Photo of fernbird by David Cornick Map showing fernbird sightings at southern end of Mana...

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Earlier this year Colin Miskelly produced a proposal to resurrect the 5-minute bird count surveys on Mana. The island is the focus of one of the most comprehensive ecological restoration programmes in New Zealand. However, there is little information published on how the landbird community on Mana has changed over time. The last farm stock were removed in 1986, and more than 500,000 trees and shrubs have been planted since then. This has changed the predominant land cover of the island from rank grass to forest and shrubland. Eight landbird and waterfowl species have been successfully translocated to Mana Island since 1988. Landbird and waterfowl species translocated to (and established on) Mana Island   Species                                                       Date introduced Rowi / Okarito brown kiwi                         2012 Pāteke / brown teal                                      2000–01 Takahē                                                            1988–91 and ongoing Kākāriki / yellow-crowned parakeet        2004 Korimako / bellbird                                     2010 & 2012 Pōpokatea / whitehead                               2010 Toutouwai / North Island robin               1995–96 Mātātā / fernbird                                         2019   The only New Zealand sites to have received more successful bird translocations (in terms of the number of species established) are Tiritiri Matangi, Zealandia, and Kapiti Island. In addition, tūī naturally recolonised Mana Island in 2009, and are now abundant. Colin notes, however, that there is no published information on the current status of those bird species that were present on  Mana Island before ecological restoration commenced, or how the landbird community has changed over time.   Counts of diurnal landbirds will be undertaken on Mana Island during 2021–23. This started with the marking of a network of 20 permanent bird monitoring sites in early 2021. Regular counts of birds at these sites are planned for late April 2021. Counts will be undertaken by experienced or trained FOMI and Birds New Zealand members. Most will be completed during...

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Late in 2020 Colin Miskelly proposed a one-off survey of speargrass weevils on Mana Island for early 2021. The expectation was for similar surveys to be undertaken occasionally (e.g. at 3–5 year intervals) to assess whether speargrass weevils are being impacted by the Beauveria fungus that is being spread by the flax weevils. The background to this is that 41 Wellington speargrass weevils were released on Mana Island in 2006-07 about 650m south-south-west of the trig. Despite persisting on the island for 14 years, these large weevils are rarely seen. This weevil is a threatened species introduced to Mana as part of a targeted species management programme. So it is a priority to assess its current status on the island and, longer term, determine whether it is impacted by Beauveria fungus. The initial survey was done over Waitangi weekend by a team involving a mix of Entomological Society and FOMI members. Colin said it went well. It involved groups searching steep coastal slopes near the speargrass weevil release site, marking every speargrass plant located within defined sectors, and recording all locations for  speargrass weevil and any feeding signs. While only three weevils were seen, their feeding signs were recorded on 147 plants spread over about 1 km. Photos: Speargrass weevil browsing, and speargrass in flower on Mana. By Colin Miskelly, Te...

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The weather in the lead up to this trip plus the changing forecasts raised doubts over whether the trip would proceed. Eliot was keen around midday Friday for us leave earlier as winds were forecast to rise later – they certainly did too. It was quite a rough trip across. Some people weren’t able to make it.  Our final number was 13 after several people pulled out. Rain set in soon after arrival so the usual critter search at the flax weevil test site was called off. Two groups braved the conditions. Helen, Cooper and Sarah checked the fluttering shearwater burrows for birds not present in Colin’s check. Will, Annemieke, Sarah-Jane and Daniel visited flax weevil MIQ in an attempt to remove the marked weevils placed there last trip. They found 2 of the 20! Several did a side trip to the gannet site and discovered 2 live gannets there. One was still there in the morning.  Saturday morning dawned fine, though it was very damp under foot. Will worked with Sarah and Cooper setting the flax weevil pitfall traps, Helen worked with Sarah-Jane and Daniel trimming back the guano powered  grass growth at the flutterer site. They also installed the 6 more WFSP burrows asked for by Cathy M. Helen needed to find chicks big enough to be banded and so lessen the banding work load in January. Annemieke and Gillian monitored the ngahere finding just 1 target lizard. They were able to check for green gecko in the warm, sunny conditions. Also in operation were the speckled skink pitfalls set before dark Friday evening. Great to see Gillian back on Mana after her long spell recovering from illness. Rosemary, Peter and Margriet did their coastal litter survey starting at their site near McGregor Rock, followed by the western coast site and finally the Hole in the Rock site. They completed their sorting of the litter in the fading light. Richard continued the battle against the wetland path weeds. As people finished they went and assisted him. Dale visited all sites, took photos of signage for Jaz and assisted Nick and his dad Jim clearing culverts on the Central track. Will lead the night critter search of the 80 poled flax plants. 13 weevils marked back in March were recovered, recorded and released. He was assisted by Annemieke, Richard, Sarah, Gillian, Cooper, Sarah-Jane and Daniel. Most of the group got back before the rain set in. A further 5 marked weevils were recovered at MIQ. Helen and Dale visited the flutterer site and did a series of checks of active burrows searching for adults not present on earlier...

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Now back at level 1 we were able to take a full complement of 17. It was back to sharing smaller spaces and noisier, but as usual a friendly and good natured group. There were many new faces on this trip. Most joined Will on his critter search, Friday night at the flax weevil trial site. The group recaptured 18 marked weevils over the weekend. This brings the total of unique marked weevils recaptured by FOMI volunteers up to 114. This is out of a total of 430 marked weevils, and is quite a high strike rate in studies like these. Volunteers counted over 1400 weevils at the study site (80 mature flaxes) during their regular 2 hour night time monitoring. It was close to midnight when the team returned. A key task on Saturday was to find a flax site not yet infested by flax weevils and to erect a fence – ‘flax weevil MIQ’, to allow study of their life cycle. Just now this is unknown. Colin, David and Douglas selected a site began erecting a fence – using gecko fence materials. Dale assisted later. On Sunday Dale, Peter, Cathye, Douglas and Rick completed the fence and Will arrived with numbered, bee tagged weevils to release in this enclosure. The selection criterion for the weevils was that pairs were involved in mating on collection – they were collected on the previous nights. Trent, Halema, Brittany and Sarah set the speckled skink pitfalls, monitored the ngahere site covers and checked for green geckos over the two days. One ngahere was spotted – Trent recognised it by sight – one he had transferred. Two green geckos were found, one identified at this stage.  Peter and Cathye completed the first cycle of the revised light-welling programme. Rewarewa are the most common trees to have reached the canopy. There are many kohekohe seedlings – Peter believes areas kohekohe forest will be common on Mana in the future. Will, Andrea and Margriet set the flax weevil site pitfalls and monitored these Saturday and Sunday. Mark assembled the six extra WFSP burrows needed for the February translocation. This was dry work in the workshop on the rainy Saturday morning. Dale painted on the lid numbers. Colin, Brittany, Douglas and Sarah checked the fluttering shearwater burrows and recorded bird band numbers. Pretty sure the active burrows, with bird and egg was 35 (2 of these burrows were egg without bird). Colin believes some birds may yet lay eggs. Richard, Linda and Rick planted trees in the wetland and weeded. Richard and Mark continued this work on Sunday. David spent Sunday searching for fernbirds, using his...

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Under COVID Level 2 our numbers were restricted to 10 volunteers. High winds and unfavourable tides on the Friday brought our trip forward to midday. Only 1 person had to drop out, leaving a party of 9. DOC ranger Nick told us about successful takahe transfers onto and off of Mana in preceding days. He also spoke of the sad demise of the shore plover programme on Mana. Arriving earlier than planned in overcast and windy conditions some removal of tree lucerne and weeding was carried out. The fluttering shearwater site was checked and 2 birds were found in burrows – birds returning to lay eggs and begin incubation. This is 4 days earlier than previously recorded. The Friday night critter search at the flax weevil site produced plenty of flax weevils (just 3 marked ones), an assortment of flies, slugs, weta and lizards. Everyone participated. Conditions were overcast, cold and windy. Similar conditions applied Saturday morning. Will, Philippa and Allan set up the flax weevil pitfalls and Peter and Adrian carried the light-welling in Weta Valley. It is interesting to note that some areas they covered were ‘toxic’ with the droppings left by starling droppings. Some smaller trees were obviously damaged and some appeared to have died as a result of the birds’ presence. Annemieke and newbie Amber checked out the Ngahere gecko site covers and the speckled skink pitfalls. Lots of Raukawa geckos, tree and giant weta were found but no target species. Richard and early finishers made new plantings in the wetland. Dale completed planting of mostly taupata at the fairy prion site. Saturday, although windy and cold and occasionally producing fine drizzle made working conditions okay. We checked the forecast around Saturday dinner – winds gusting up to 45 knots were predicted for Sunday afternoon. Overnight rain was quite heavy. On Sunday morning we agreed on a pick-up time of midday – winds were still predicted to be building then and it would be close to full tide. Pitfall traps needed to be closed and critters ID’d and counted at the flax weevil and speckled skink sites. Photos from our 20th anniversary exhibition in 2018 pictures (fauna and panorama only) were set up in the bio-security room. Some will be displayed in the Lockwood and some in the office. It was quite a rough trip back but evidently nowhere near as bad as the trip out. We had just a small crew on this work trip but achieved almost everything we set out to do. Postscript: Annemieke adapted a pictorial version of scrabble which she called Hex-ono. It has small tiles with coloured pictures of...

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